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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Caring for others, standing up for what you believe in. Not valuing money over people. Discussions around mental health issues, including self-harming and drug addiction.
Positive Role Models
Characters work together in a record store, where they enjoy their jobs and take an interest in each other's lives. Prominent roles for females but no real diversity among the cast. Characters identify as misfits and outsiders while they mostly support each other regardless. Minor representations and discussion of homosexuality. Male characters held to account for rude, sexist behavior.
Violence & Scariness
Character taken by the scruff of their clothing as an argument escalates. Other characters roughhouse while moshing to a rock song. Minor fights off-screen. Minor cut sustained by one of them, black eye by another. A character threatens others with a gun -- revealed to be loaded with blanks -- during an attempted robbery. Reference to an attempted suicide. A shop is destroyed when a character loses their temper.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Characters harbor romantic feelings for each other, while others are shown to be in relationships. Kissing, both romantic and for comedic effect. Anecdotes about stripping to underwear and flirting. Character ogles a scantily clad employee. Partially clothed models also appear in the background on posters. Characters appear partially clothed and in their underwear. Character runs their hands over their body as they dance, before removing clothing to reveal their underwear as they attempt a seduction. Another character removes their underwear from under their dress. Characters have sex off screen. Comedic noises heard through the wall. Character is shown shirtless from behind.
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Language used includes, "s--t," "ass," "bulls--t," "balls," "butt," "d--k," and one use of "f---ing."
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Products & Purchases
The movie is set in a record store that is subject to a corporate takeover. Employee advocates preference for buying albums on vinyl rather than CD. Character gambles at casino with money that is not theirs, but for reasons they argue are non-materialistic.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes and cigars. Character eats a pot brownie and hallucinates, to comic effect. Another is revealed to take speed. Characters sell beer without a permit.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Empire Records is a cult 90s coming-of-age comedy-drama that contains some drug and sex references, and occasional strong language. The story centers around a group of friends and co-workers -- including Anthony LaPaglia, Renée Zellweger, and Liv Tyler -- who band together to try and stop the independent record store where they work being sold to a chain. The movie places characterization over plot, so much of it is concerned with the young staff's interactions with one another. They are shown as loving and being dedicated to their jobs, and also caring about their colleagues' well-being, despite a few arguments and minor physical altercations. There is discussion about mental health issues such as self-harming. A character is revealed to have an addition to amphetamines. Another takes a pot brownie and begins to hallucinate, but this is played for laughs. Some supporting characters are shown to be arrogant, rude, and greedy, but this is portrayed in a negative light. Violence features on a couple of occasions but is very mild and either reconciled quickly or played for comic effect. Likewise, sex features but is also nearly always played for comedic effect. One female character is upset when her romantic overtures are met with a crude response. Swearing is mostly mild and infrequent, with only one use of "f---ing." Consumerism features because of the record-store setting, but none of the characters are materialistic. Gambling in a casino takes place, but not for personal profit. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
A box office flop that became a much-loved cult hit, the movie's flaws are the very things that have endeared it to fans over the years. Empire Records' scrappy plot, characters that ping-pong off each other without much time for development, and a soundtrack that bombards the audience whenever it roars into life all help create a strong sense of place filled with the type of people everyone's met and, more to the point, are fun to hang out with. Among its ensemble cast is Liv Tyler in an early role as Corey, whose personal problems form one of the discussions of mental health that weave their way through the dialogue alongside 90s slacker movie tropes, such as record store employees arguing about the merits of vinyl over CDs.
The record store setting now makes for an iconic, time capsule backdrop, giving the movie a strong aesthetic that was simply everyday life upon its release. More acclaimed and better crafted 90s youth culture movies may exist, but Empire Records' talented cast and sheer warmth of spirit means that it should continue to endure for years to come.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.